We will be in Paris for 9 nights in October and would like to take a few day trips outside of Paris to get a feel for rural French Vilages. We would like to stick with train travel. Any suggestions?
Versailles is a nice day trip from Paris. Well worth the visit. Take a picnic lunch.
For me, I tend to vote against Versailles in October. The fantastic water show doesn't run after September, and that's my favorite thing about Versailles. I'd look into the other nearby chateaux. We're also going in October and we are vacillating between Chantilly and Fountainebleu. I'll second the vote for Chartres, though. It's an amazing cathedral, and a fun town. It feels so different from Paris, which it sounds like is what you are going for. We're going to Chartres while we are there. Have fun!
Try to go to Caen in Normandy by car of train and see the American Cemetary and the WWII museum. Went there two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. The closest thing to it in the U.S. is Arlington Cemetary. VERY moving. Actually walked on Omaha Beach and later saw military footage of the Normandy invasion at the same place I was standing hours earlier. Caen is the city where the Germans were surrounded after the invasion and subsequently defeated in France. It was 85% destroyed and completely rebuilt in the 50's, and pretty much looks the same now.
I second the WWII sites
Also the Saturday market in Rennes (Place de Lices) is one of my favorite in any season, and the old town is nice.
Pat, If you go to Caen, try to get to Bayeux. There's more WWII sites. Also see the Bayeux tapestries. It is a very famous, old and magnificient piece of artwork depicting William the Conqueror and King Harold of England at the Battle of Hastings. Let us know what daytrips you finally took.
If you like art go to Chantilly, the collection of paintings there is second only to the Louvre, people have no idea it is so rich with masterpieces, which is great as it is not crowded ! The Chateau itself is very pretty, and if the weather is fine walking the grounds is lovely also.
Chantilly is also home to a world class horse racing training centre( and track) and their is a good horse musuem there, plus the stables are so grand that often tourists first think they are seeing the Chateau.
The town is small, and it is easy to get to Chantilly. Train runs from Gare Du Nord,, about30 minute trip,, then a 15-20 minute walk along a lovely forested and house lined path to town, or you can take a bus or taxi.
The anitdote to crowds is Chantilly.
Chantilly. I went there in March (off season, but it was 60+ degrees all week) and there were no other tourists. It's a cheap and easy train ride (we showed up at Gare du Nord on a whim, went to the English window, and were off in a flash at €10 total). Grab a baguette in the area around the station while you wait for the free bus to bring you to the chateau, and be sure to walk around back (through the trees) for some more scenery on the grounds. We didn't even go inside (we're not big on museums and we were already going to Mont St Michel) and it was a memorable day. It's very picturesque and relaxing.
If you want to see "rural French villages" how about renting a car for the day and exploring areas around Paris that would fit the bill? There are many rural villages to the West of Paris. You could take the RER to St. Germain-en-Laye and pick up a car there. Just a thought :) These other suggestions are good but they're not rural French villages.